Revive Civility Program Series at the Wilmington Memorial Library

Are you concerned about the dramatic decline in civil discourse?  With this in mind, the Wilmington Memorial Library set-out to generate a community-wide atmosphere of kindness through a Revive Civility program series.  The Board of Selectmen were so pleased with this series that they issued a proclamation declaring September 2018 as the Revive Civility Month.  This series is an excellent example of a public library civic engagement program fostering the common good.

Keynote Address by Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Keynote Address by Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Please tell us about your Revive Civility program series.

In September 2018, the Wilmington Memorial Library presented Revive Civility a month long initiative to raise awareness of the importance of engaging in civil conversations. The library launched Revive Civility with a presentation by Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse.  Over 85 people attended this event, including representatives from state and local government. They heard Dr. Lukensmeyer  speak about the causes of incivility in the political arena and beyond and took away tips on what they can do about it. Her presentation set the tone for the three discussion sessions that followed later in the month on Gun Control, NFL Protests, and the Future of Wilmington. The intent of these discussion programs was to give attendees the opportunity to practice the tenets of civility while potentially speaking to those who may disagree with them.   In addition, the library hosted Bill Littlefield from Public Radio’s Only a Game who spoke on sportsmanship.

Post It Note Positivity Wall

Meditation sessions were offered throughout the month to allow people to learn techniques for dealing with emotions that prompt uncivil behavior.  In addition to offering programs related to civility, the library had books on display that dealt with civility and kindness. We purchased 15 copies each of the two featured books Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni and Treating People Well by Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard. These books were selected for the library’s monthly book discussions.  We also offered a number of children and teen programs that dealt with kindness and etiquette as well as some passive programs such as the “Kindness Tree” and “Post It Positivity Wall” to encourage patrons to think positive and kind thoughts. Continue reading

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Democracy Talks at the Watertown Free Public Library

While preparing for my fall workshop, Librarians Fostering Civic Engagement, I discovered this outstanding program series offered at the Watertown Free Public Library.  I’m very excited to bring you an interview with Brita Zitin, Digital Services Librarian, at the Watertown Free Public Library.  Congrats to Brita and the Watertown Free Public Library on offering such a timely and crucial series.

Brita Zitin

Brita Zitin

Please tell us about your Democracy Talks series.

Brita Zitin: We started the series in the wake of the 2016 election, sensing that people were eager for both basic information on and deep insight into the political process. The first event was scheduled for the night before the presidential inauguration in January 2017, and we’ve continued every two or three months since. Topics have included voting rights, immigration, climate change, and fair housing. (A full list is on the WFPL website.) We hope that attendees leave each talk empowered to engage with the topic more confidently, be it in discussion, action, or simply reflection.

How has your community responded to your Democracy Talks series?

While we haven’t been capturing any written feedback, attendees often stop to share comments as they leave. We’ve heard lots along the lines of “Thanks for the series, it’s great – and so very much needed” and “I hope the Democracy Talks panels will continue!”

How Immigration Law Affects Us AllWhich programs have been the most popular?

Our first program drew the largest audience, due to the strong opinions and emotions that the impending inauguration stirred up. The speaker, Erin O’Brien of UMass Boston, skillfully channeled all that energy into a focused examination of facts, precedents, and possibilities.

We have also had good attendance at our programs on immigration and citizenship. The latter drew an entire ESL class from the library’s Project Literacy program, and some of the students subsequently signed up for the Project Literacy citizenship class! Continue reading

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